The tribulations that face fashion are multi-faceted – cost, supply chains, materials, waste, to name a few. Host for the night and Conduit co-founder, Paul van Zyl, posed the question of what policy our dinner guests would enact that would help fix the problems in the industry. Many of the answers echoing around the room agreed that cost and taxation need to be addressed. There needs to be a shift in the perception that sustainable fashion is expensive and therefore inaccessible to the general public. Innovative materials, such as bio-fabricated textiles, are definitely part of the solution, but their undesirable cost are a sticking point and prevent scalability. Is there an equilibrium that can be reached via taxation?
Besides economic factors, there are many impediments to scale for fashion entrepreneurs. How can smaller, more innovative start-ups, compete with large-scale and resource heavy brands? There is a lot of ‘noise’ that is generated by established fashion labels on their ‘green capsule collections’, claiming them to be fully sustainable and ethical. However, such a small selection of clothing is not representative of the processes at play in a wider company. Yet, because these corporations can harness the support of the media, word gets out and attention is garnered – a vicious cycle.
The pace of change is slow, and consumers need to get on board for the long term. A wider societal reawakening is required. Sustainability, quality, desirability… Which matters more to customers? The crux seems to be that what is ethical needs to become desirable. These factors should not sit in silo, but unite to form an industry that crosses boundaries.
It was refreshing to hear about the positive movements that guests on the night are taking to address the systemic problems within the fashion industry. VivoBarefoot, have a horizontal company structure, they use innovative materials and are also the first footwear company to look deeply into the full life cycle of a product, launching a resale/end of life programme for their consumers. E.L.V. Denim uses materials with zero environmental impact and The Tartan Blanket Company pays particular attention to where their wool is sourced from.
Whilst the evening only allowed time to touch on just some of the challenges facing sustainable fashion, it also only skimmed the surface on the innovative solutions and tremendous amount of work that is taking place to create positive tipping points. The very nature of fashion is creative, innovative and problem solving and we need to harness the power of a new generation passionate about change to lead the way and make a trend into a new system. As consumers it is now our job to shine a light on these initiatives and get behind them.
The Conduit and Julius Baer were also proud to partner on this discussion on sustainable fashion, featuring:
- Yvonne Suter, Head of Sustainability and Director of the Sustainability Board, Julius Baer
- Paul van Zyl, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, The Conduit
- Damien Ng, Thematic Research Analyst, Julius Baer
- Arizona Muse, Model and Climate Activist
- Cynthia Birchler, Sustainability Marketing Specialist
- Anna Foster, Founder and Creative Director, E.L.V. Denim
The Conduit is planning more programming on the theme of Sustainable Fashion in the coming months. Stay tuned for further content, initiatives and ways to get involved.
In the meantime, check out some of initiatives below who are making waves in sustainable fashion:
The Sustainable Angle